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BULLIES AND COWARDS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 30, 2017 at 12:03 am

As a whole, Democrats have shown themselves indifferent to or ignorant of the power of effective language.

Many of them—such as former President Barack Obama—believe: “I’m not going to get into the gutter like my opponents.”

Thus, they take the “high ground” while their sworn Republican enemies undermine them via “smear and fear” tactics.

In the early 1950s, slander-hurling Wisconsin U.S. Senator Joseph R. McCarthy demonstrated the effectiveness of such tactics. Wrote Pulitzer-Prize winning author David Halberstam, in his monumental study of the origins of the Vietnam War, The Best and the Brightest:

“But if they did not actually stick, and they did not, [McCarthy’s] charges had an equally damaging effect: They poisoned. Where there was smoke, there must be fire. He wouldn’t be saying these things [voters reasoned] unless there was something to it.”

Joseph McCarthy

Tyrants are conspicuously vulnerable to ridicule. Yet, just as Democrats proved unwilling to use this powerful weapon against McCarthy, they have failed to do so against Trump.

For example: Trump has often expressed admiration for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

But not a single Democrat has dared nickname him “TrumPutin,”  “Red Donald,” or “Wannabe Czar.”  Similarly, his vice president, Mike Pence, could be labeled “Vice Putin.”

Trump has repeatedly assaulted the press, judiciary and Intelligence agencies. Yet no Democrat has damned him as having a Fascistic agenda.  

Nor, as a whole, has the press dared to respond in kind to his increasingly vicious attacks on the First Amendment.

Trump has labeled established news media as “fake news.” He has called reporters “the enemy of America.”  He has tweeted images of a “Trump train” running over a CNN reporter and of himself beating up someone covered by a CNN logo.

His target of choice is CNN, which has been particularly effective in uncovering the truth behind his almost daily lies.  On at least one occasion, he told a CNN reporter: “You’re fake news.” 

Yet no reporter—for CNN or any other news outlet—has called him a “fake President.”   

CNN has started running an ad featuring a shiny red apple, while a voice-over intones:

“This is an apple. Some people might try to tell you that it’s a banana. They might scream banana, banana, banana over and over and over again. They might put BANANA in all caps. You might even start to believe that this is a banana. But it’s not. This is an apple.” 

Unfortunately, many viewers might mistake the “apple” for Apple. Many Americans fail to grasp the subtleties of symbolic imagery. Thus, a more effective ad could feature a picture of Trump in an SS uniform, complete with swastika, and the following message: 

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“This  is a Fascist. Some people might try to tell you that he’s a democrat. They might scream democrat, democrat, democrat over and over and over again. They might put DEMOCRAT in all caps. You might even start to believe that he is a democrat.  But he’s not. This is a Fascist.”   

Nor, in this YouTube-obsessed age, have Democrats assailed Trump with a ridiculing music video. In the hands of a creative writer, for example, the classic rock-and-roll song, “Rockin’ Robin,” could become a Democratic party anthem:

TRUMPY TRAITOR
(To be sung to the tune, “Rockin’ Robin”)

He Tweets in the White House all the day long
Screamin’ and a-schemin’ and a-doin’ what’s wrong.
All the Special Agents in the FBI
Hope he goes to prison to the day he’ll die.

Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Go Trumpy Traitor
‘Cause they’re gonna bust your ass tonight.

Every act of treason, every act of crime—
America has never seen a bigger slime.
Bob Mueller’s ready, the cops are closin’ in
To put a grand finale to your reign of sin.

Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Go Trumpy Traitor
‘Cause they’re gonna bust your ass tonight.

Eric’s getting ready for his next big steal
While Daddy hugs Ivanka—who lets out a squeal.
Don Junior’s got the Russians coming once again—
It’s party-time for traitors and their lives of sin.

He Tweets in the White House all the day long
Screamin’ and a-schemin’ and a-doin’ what’s wrong.
Handing out secrets to the KGB
The biggest Right-wing traitor that you’ll ever see.

Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Go Trumpy Traitor
‘Cause they’re gonna bust your ass tonight.

Well, Eric’s getting ready for his next big steal
While Daddy hugs Ivanka—who lets out a squeal.
Don Junior’s got the Russians coming once again—
It’s party-time for traitors and their lives of sin.

He Tweets in the White House all the day long
Screamin’ and a-schemin’ and a-doin’ what’s wrong.
Handing out secrets to the KGB
The biggest Right-wing traitor that you’ll ever see.

Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Go Trumpy Traitor
‘Cause they’re gonna bust your ass tonight.

Democrats and the media are fighting an openly Fascistic administration with tactics of a Shirley Temple. So long as they do so, they will continue to decline in influence.

Their only hope lies in combating the Heinz Guderians of the Republican Party with the all-out tactics of a George S. Patton.

BULLIES AND COWARDS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Politics, Social commentary on November 29, 2017 at 12:36 pm

A major reason for Donald Trump’s appeal during the 2016 Presidential campaign was: “He’s not like other politicians.”

And he wasn’t.

The vast majority of politicians adhere to an unwritten rule: Even when you criticize another politician, you do so in a reasonably dignified manner.

Trump through that rule—along with many others—out the window.  In its place, he gave his opponents—Republican and Democrat—a series of disparaging nicknames.

And, as President, he has continued to do so.

His main sources of public defamation have been Twitter and the speeches he makes.  Among the insulting nicknames have included:

  • “Jeff Flakey” – Jeff Flake, Arizona United States Senator.
  • “Crazy Megyn” – Megyn Kelly, Fox News’ then-anchor, perhaps the only member of this Right-wing propaganda outlet that Trump disliked.
  • “Liddle Bob Corker” – Bob Corker, United States Senator from Tennessee
  • “Psycho Joe” and “Dumb as a Rock Mika” – Joe Scarborough and Mika  Brzezinski, hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
  • “Lyin’ Ted” – Texas United States Senator Eduardo “Ted” Cruz.
  • “Crazy Bernie” – Vermont United States Senator Bernie Sanders.
  • “Low Energy Jeb” – Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida.
  • “Crooked Hillary” – Hillary Clinton, former First Lady, New York United States Senator and Secretary of State.
  • “Little Marco” – Florida United States Senator Marco Rubio.
  • “Rocket Man” – North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un (because of his series of missile launches)
  • “Al Frankenstein” – Al Franken, United States Senator from Minnesota.
  • “Pocahontas” – Elizabeth Warren, United States Senator from Massachusetts.

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks appear every Friday on the PBS Newshour to review the week’s major political events.

On May 27, 2016, Shields—a liberal, and Brooks, a conservative—reached some disturbingly similar conclusions about the character of Republican Presidential front-runner Donald Trump.

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David Brooks and Mark Shields

MARK SHIELDS: “Donald Trump gratuitously slandered Ted Cruz’s wife. He libeled Ted Cruz’s father for being potentially part of Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassination of the president of the United States, suggesting that he was somehow a fellow traveler in that.

“This is a libel. You don’t get over it….

“…I think this man may be addicted to the roar of the grease paint and the sound of the crowd, or however it goes, smell of the crowd.”

Donald Trump

DAVID BROOKS: “Trump, for all his moral flaws, is a marketing genius. And you look at what he does. He just picks a word and he attaches it to a person. Little Marco [Rubio], Lyin’ Ted [Cruz], Crooked Hillary [Clinton].

“And that’s a word.  And that’s how marketing works. It’s a simple, blunt message, but it gets under.

“It sticks, and it diminishes. And so it has been super effective for him, because he knows how to do that.  And she [Hillary Clinton] just comes with, ‘Oh, he’s divisive.’

“These are words that are not exciting people. And her campaign style has gotten, if anything…a little more stagnant and more flat.”

Only one opponent—who was not a Presidential candidate—managed to stand up to Trump: Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren.  Whenever Trump attacks her, Warren strikes back—sometimes even more harshly.

As Mark Shields noted:

“Elizabeth Warren gets under Donald Trump’s skin.  And I think she’s been the most effective adversary. I think she’s done more to unite the Democratic party than either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.”

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Trump used Twitter to fire almost 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions that had somehow offended him.

Warren has dared to do what no other Democrat—or Republican—has: Attack Trump head-on, with the kind of blunt, insulting language he has lavished on his opponents.

Among the jabs she has thrown at him on Twitter:

  • “But here’s the thing. You can beat a bully—not by tucking tail and running, but by holding your ground.”
  • “You care so much about struggling American workers, @realDonaldTrump, that you want to abolish the federal minimum wage?”
  • @realDonaldTrump: Your policies are dangerous. Your words are reckless. Your record is embarrassing. And your free ride is over.”

Nor is Twitter her only weapon.

On March 31, Warren appeared on The Late Show, with Stephen Colbert. Her take on the egotistical billionaire:

“Donald Trump is looking out for exactly one guy, and that guy’s name is Donald Trump. He smells that there’s change in the air and what he wants to do is make sure that that change works really, really well for Donald Trump.

“The truth is, he inherited a fortune from his father, he kept it going by cheating and defrauding people, and then he takes his creditors through Chapter 11.”

When Colbert said that Trump had never broken the law, Warren replied that he had never broken the law “and been caught.”

For David Brooks, Warren’s tactics prove a depressing, lose/lose situation:

“And so the tactics…is either you do what Elizabeth Warren has done, like full-bore negativity, that kind of [get] under the skin, or try to ridicule him and use humor. Humor is not Hillary Clinton’s strongest point.”

As a whole, Democrats have shown themselves indifferent to or ignorant of the power of effective language.

WHY FASCISTS WIN AND LIBERALS LOSE

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 16, 2017 at 10:32 pm

It was September 26, 1960. The date of the first—and now legendary—Presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon.

Robert F. Kennedy, who was managing his brother’s campaign, offered some blunt but effective debate-prep advice: “Kick him in the balls, Jack.”

John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy

As a result, Kennedy came out fighting—and stayed on the offensive throughout the debate. At one point, he said flat-out that the United States should overthrow the year-old Cuban regime of Fidel Castro.

Nixon knew there was a secret CIA plan under way to do just that, but couldn’t afford to say so in public. So he came out hard against such a proposal, saying it would alienate American allies throughout the Caribbean.

Nixon had been warned by Henry Cabot Lodge, his Vice Presidential running mate, to tone down his “assassin image.”

During the 1950s, as a colleague of Red-baiting Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, Nixon had made himself immune from the damning charge of “soft on Communism.”

And yet, pitted against a surprisingly aggressive Kennedy, he came off as decidedly second-best in standing up to the successor of Joseph Stalin.

The Kennedy-Nixon Debate

Commentators generally agreed that Nixon lost that first debate—the most-watched of the four. And it may have proved fatal to his electoral chances that year.  

Kick him in the balls, Jack.

It’s advice that someone should have given to President Barack Obama. Not just before his October 3, 2012 debate with Mitt Romney, the Republican Presidential candidate, but at the start of his Presidency.

Romney came on strong from the outset and never let up.  He attacked the President relentlessly. And he repeatedly ignored calls by the alleged moderator, Jim Lehrer, to stop because he had exceeded his time-limit.

The Obama-Romney Debate

But, surprisingly, Obama:  

  • Never called out Romney on any of the lies he had aimed at the President throughout more than a year’s worth of campaigning.  
  • Never demanded that Romney produce specifics about the programs he would cut.
  • Never mentioned Bain Capitol, Romney’s private equity firm, as a job-killing corporate predator.  
  • Never attacked Romney for having personal assets in Swiss bank accounts.
  • Never mentioned the infamous “47%” videotape in which Romney contemptuously wrote off almost half of the electorate.

Obama was a supremely decent and rational man. He seemed to believe that if he was decent and reasonable toward his sworn enemies, they, in turn, would treat him the same way.

They didn’t. And Obama repeatedly failed to learn the only possible lesson from it.

As a result, he endured relentless personal insults and the stonewalling of his legislation by Republicans in the House and Senate.

But it did not have to be that way.

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine patriot and statesman, offered this advice in The Prince, his primer on political science:

Niccolo Machiavelli

From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved. The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved.  

For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain. As long as you benefit them they are entirely yours.  

They offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote. But when it approaches, they revolt.

And the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined….

And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared.

For love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose.

But fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.

Obama should have put this truth into practice at the start of his administration, through the example of South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson. 

It was Wilson who yelled “You lie!” at the President during his September 9, 2009 health care speech to Congress.

Wilson later apologized, and Rahm Emannuel, Obama’s Chief of Staff, accepted the apology on the President’s behalf.

Instead, Obama could—and should—have sent this directive to all Federal agencies: “If you have to make cutbacks, make them first in the Congressional district of Joe Wilson.” 

When military bases and hospitals and highway projects started disappearing from Wilson’s district, word would have quickly gotten around: Don’t screw with Obama. 

And Republicans would have behaved accordingly.

During the Civil War, General William Tecumseh Sherman said of his Confederate enemies: “They cannot be made to love us, but they may be made to fear us.”

General William Texumseh Sherman

Obama won the election. But, for all his brilliance as a Harvard graduate, he failed to learn and apply this most essential lesson.  

And that failure haunted him throughout his eight-year term.

MACHIAVELLI WARNED AMERICA ABOUT TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 13, 2017 at 2:37 am

On July 30, 2016, Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump attacked the integrity of the parents of an Army captain who died heroically in Iraq in 2004.

For this, he took heavy fire from Democrats, veterans organizations and even his fellow Republicans.

But an even more damning assessment came from Niccolo Machiavelli, the 16th-century Florentine statesman whose two great works on politics—The Prince and The Discourses—remain textbooks for successful politicians more than 500 years later.   

Niccolo Machiavelli

Throughout his campaign for President, Trump hurled insults at virtually every major segment of American society, including:  

  • Latinos
  • Asians
  • Muslims
  • Blacks
  • The Disabled
  • Women
  • Prisoners-of-War

These insults delighted his white, under-educated followers. But they alienated millions of other Americans who might have voted for him. 

 

Donald Trump

Machiavelli, on the other hand, advised leaders to refrain from gratuitous insults: 

  • “I hold it to be a proof of great prudence for men to abstain from threats and insulting words towards any one.
  • For neither the one nor the other in any way diminishes the strength of the enemy–but the one makes him more cautious, and the other increases his hatred of you, and makes him more persevering in his efforts to injure you.”  

And Trump’s reaction to the criticism he’s received? 

“I can be Presidential, but if I was Presidential I would only have—about 20% of you would be here because it would be boring as hell, I will say,” Trump told supporters at a rally in Superior, Wisconsin. 

For those who expected Trump to shed his propensity for constantly picking fights, Machiavelli had a stern warning: 

  • “…If it happens that time and circumstances are favorable to one who acts with caution and prudence he will be successful. But if time and circumstances change he will be ruined, because he does not change the mode of his procedure. 
  • “No man can be found so prudent as to be able to adopt himself to this, either because he cannot deviate from that to which his nature disposes him, or else because, having always prospered by walking in one path, he cannot persuade himself that it is well to leave it… 
  • “For if one could change one’s nature with time and circumstances, fortune would never change.” 

Then there was Trump’s approach to consulting advisers:

Asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” who he consults about foreign policy, Trump replied;

“I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

This totally contrasts with the advice given by Machiavelli:

  • “A prudent prince must [choose] for his counsel wise men, and [give] them alone full liberty to speak the truth to him, but only of those things that he asks and of nothing else. 
  • “But he must be a great asker about everything and hear their opinions, and afterwards deliberate by himself in his own way, and in these counsels…comport himself so that every one may see that the more freely he speaks, the more he will be acceptable.”

And Machiavelli offered a related warning on the advising of rulers: Unwise princes cannot be wisely advised.   

During the fifth GOP debate in the Presidential sweepstakes, host Hugh Hewitt asked Trump this question: 

“Mr. Trump, Dr. [Ben] Carson just referenced the single most important job of the president, the command and the care of our nuclear forces. And he mentioned the triad. 

“The B-52s are older than I am. The missiles are old. The submarines are aging out. It’s an executive order. It’s a commander-in-chief decision. 

“What’s your priority among our nuclear triad?” 

[The triad refers to America’s land-, sea- and air-based systems for delivering nuclear missiles and bombs.] 

Nuclear missile in silo

Trump’s reply: “Well, first of all, I think we need somebody absolutely that we can trust, who is totally responsible, who really knows what he or she is doing. That is so powerful and so important.”  

He then digressed to his having called the Iraq invasion a mistake in 2003 and 2004. Finally he came back on topic:

“But we have to be extremely vigilant and extremely careful when it comes to nuclear. Nuclear changes the whole ballgame. 

“The biggest problem we have today is nuclear–nuclear proliferation and having some maniac, having some madman go out and get a nuclear weapon. I think to me, nuclear, is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.”

Which brings us back to Machiavelli:  

  • “…Some think that a prince who gains the reputation of being prudent [owes this to] the good counselors he has about him; they are undoubtedly deceived.
  • “It is an infallible rule that a prince who is not wise himself cannot be well advised, unless by chance he leaves himself entirely in the hands of one man who rules him in everything, and happens to be a very prudent man. In this case, he may doubtless be well governed, but it would not last long, for the governor would in a short time deprive him of the state.” 

All of which would lead Niccolo Machiavelli to warn, if he could witness American politics today: “This bodes ill for your Republic.”

THE PERILS OF TWITTERING

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 9, 2017 at 12:04 am
If Donald Trump ever read The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman, he’s decided he doesn’t need it. And his ever-falling popularity among Americans clearly proves his mistake. 

THE LIMITS OF LOVE AND FEAR: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 21, 2017 at 12:02 am

American Presidents—like politicians everywhere–strive to be loved. There are two primary reasons for this.

First, even the vilest dictators want to believe they are good people—and that their goodness is rewarded by the love of their subjects.

Second, it’s universally recognized that a leader who’s beloved has great clout than one who isn’t. In the United States, a Presidential candidate who wins by a landslide is presumed to have a mandate to pursue his agenda—at least, for the first two years of his administration.

But those—like Barack Obama—who strive to avoid conflict often get treated with contempt and hostility by their adversaries.

Image result for Images of Barack Obama giving a speech in the Oval Office

Barack Obama

In Renegade: The Making of a President, Richard Wolffe chronicled Obama’s successful 2008 bid for the White House. Among his revelations:

Obama, a believer in rationality and decency, felt more comfortable in responding to attacks on his character than in attacking the character of his enemies.

A graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, Obama was one of the most academically gifted Presidents in United States history.

Yet he failed to grasp and apply this fundamental lesson taught by Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science:

A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good.  And therefore it is necessary for a prince, who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.

This explains why Obama found most of his legislative agenda stymied by Republicans.

For example: In 2014, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) sought to block David Barron, Obama’s nominee to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

Rand Paul

Paul objected to Barron’s authoring memos that justifyied the killing of an American citizen by a drone in Yemen on September 30, 2011.

The target was Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric notorious on the Internet for encouraging Muslims to attack the United States.

Paul demanded that the Justice Department release the memos Barron crafted justifying the drone policy.

Anwar al-Awlaki

Imagine how Republicans would depict Paul—or any Democratic Senator—who did the same with a Republican President: “Rand Paul: A traitor who supports terrorists. He sides with America’s sworn enemies against its own lawfully elected President.”

But Obama did nothing of the kind.

(On May 22, 2014, the Senate voted 53–45 to confirm Barron to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.)

But Presidents who seek to rule primarily by fear can encounter their own limitations. Which immediately brings to mind Donald Trump.

As both a Presidential candidate and President, Trump has repeatedly used Twitter to attack hundreds of real and imagined enemies in politics, journalism, TV and films.

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Trump fired almost 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions that had somehow offended him.

Donald Trump

The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them.

As a Presidential candidate and President, he has shown outright hatred for President Obama. For five years, he slandered Obama as a Kenyan-born alien who had no right to hold the Presidency. 

Then, on March 4, 2017, in a series of unhinged tweets, Trump falsely accused Obama of committing an impeachable offense: Tapping his Trump Tower phones prior to the election.

As President, Trump has refused to reach beyond the narrow base of white, racist, ignorant, hate-filled, largely rural voters who elected him.

And he has bullied and insulted even White House officials and his own handpicked Cabinet officers:

  • Trump has waged a Twitter-laced feud against Jeff Sessions, his Attorney General. Sessions’ “crime”? Recusing himself from investigations into well-established ties between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Trump’s Presidential campaign.
  • Trump repeatedly humiliated Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus—at one point ordering him to kill a fly that was buzzing about. On July 28, Priebus resigned.
  • Trump similarly tongue-lashed Priebus’ replacement, former Marine Corps General John Kelly. Trump has reportedly been angered by Kelly’s efforts to limit the number of advisers who have unrestricted access to him. Kelly told colleagues he had never been spoken to like that during 35 years of military service—and would not tolerate it again.
  • After Trump gave sensitive Israeli intelligence to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, his national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, denied this had happened. Trump then contradicted McMaster in a tweet: “As president, I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled WH meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety.”

If Trump ever read Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, he’s clearly forgotten this passage:

Cruelties ill committed are those which, although at first few, increase rather than diminish with time….Whoever acts otherwise….is always obliged to stand with knife in hand, and can never depend on his subjects, because they, owing to continually fresh injuries, are unable to depend upon him. 

And this one:

Still, a prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred. 

Or, as Cambridge Professor of Divinity William Ralph Inge put it: “A man may build himself a throne of bayonets, but he can’t sit on it.”

THE LIMITS OF LOVE AND FEAR: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 20, 2017 at 12:30 am

Is it better to be loved or feared?

That was the question Florentine statesman Niccolo Machiavelli raised more than 500 years ago.

Presidents have struggled to answer this question—and have come to different conclusions.

LOVE ME, FEAR MY BROTHER

Most people felt irresistibly drawn to John F. Kennedy—even his political foes. Henry Luce, the conservative publisher of Time, once said, “He makes me feel like a whore.”

But JFK could afford to bask in the love of others—because his younger brother, Robert, was the one who inspired fear.

Robert F. Kennedy and John F. Kennedy

He had done so as Chief Counsel for the Senate Rackets Committee (1957-59), grilling Mafia bosses and corrupt union officials–most notably Teamsters President James Hoffa.

Appointed Attorney General by JFK, he unleashed the FBI on the Mafia. When the steel companies colluded in an inflationary rise in the price of steel in 1962, Bobby sicced the FBI on them.

In 1963, JFK’s cavorting with Ellen Rometsh threatened to destroy his Presidency. Rometsch, a Washington, D.C. call girl, was suspected by the FBI of being an East German spy.

With Republican Senators preparing to investigate the rumors, Bobby ordered Rometsch deported immediately (to which, as a German citizen, she was subject).

He also ordered FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to deliver a warning to the Majority and Minority leaders of the Senate: The Bureau was fully aware of the extramarital trysts of most of its members. And an investigation into the President’s sex life could easily lead into revelations of Senatorial sleaze.

Plans for a Senatorial investigation were shelved.

BEING LOVED AND FEARED

In the 1993 movie, A Bronx Tale, 17-year-old Calogero (Lillo Brancato) asks his idol, the local Mafia capo, Sonny (Chazz Palminteri): “Is it better to be loved or feared?”

Related image

Sonny gives advice to his adopted son, Calogero

Sonny says if he had to choose, he would rather be feared. But he adds a warning straight out of Machiavelli: “The trick is not being hated. That’s why I treat my men good, but not too good.

“I give too much, then they don’t need me. I give them just enough where they need me, but they don’t hate me.”

Machiavelli, writing in The Prince, went further:

“Still a Prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred, for fear and the absence of hatred may well go together. And [this] will always be attained by one who abstains from interfering with the property of his citizens and subjects or with their women.”

Many who quote Machiavelli in defense of being feared overlook this vital point: It’s essential to avoid becoming hated.

To establish a fearful reputation, a leader must act decisively and ruthlessly when the interests of the organization are threatened. Punitive action must be taken promptly and confidently.

One or two harsh actions of this kind can make a leader more feared than a reign of terror.

In fact, it’s actually dangerous to constantly employ cruelties or punishments. Whoever does so, warns Machiavelli, “is always obliged to stand with knife in hand, and can never depend on his subjects, because they, owing to continually fresh injuries, are unable to depend upon him.”

The 20th century President who came closest to realizing Machiavelli’s “loved and feared” prince in himself was Ronald Reagan.

Always smiling, quick with a one-liner (especially at press conferences), seemingly unflappable, he projected a constantly optimistic view of his country and its citizens.

Ronald Reagan

In his acceptance speech at the 1980 Republican National Convention he declared: “[The Democrats] say that the United States has had its days in the sun, that our nation has passed its zenith.… My fellow citizens, I utterly reject that view.”

And Americans enthusiastically responded to that view, twice electing him President (1980 and 1984).

But there was a steely, ruthless side to Reagan that appeared when he felt crossed.

On August 3, 1981, nearly 13,000 air traffic controllers walked out after contract talks with the Federal Aviation Administration collapsed. As a result, some 7,000 flights across the country were canceled on that day at the peak of the summer travel season.

Reagan branded the strike illegal. He threatened to fire any controller who failed to return to work within 48 hours.

On August 5, Reagan fired more than 11,000 air traffic controllers who hadn’t returned to work. The mass firing slowed commercial air travel, but it did not cripple the system as the strikers had forecast.

Reagan’s action stunned the American labor movement. Reagan was the only American President to have belonged to a union, the Screen Actors Guild. He had even been president of this–from 1947 to 1954.

There were no more strikes by Federal workers during Reagan’s tenure in office.

Similarly, Libya’s dictator, Moammar Kadaffi, learned that Reagan was not a man to cross.

On April 5, 1986, Libyan agents bombed a nightclub in West Berlin, killing three people, one a U.S. serviceman. The United States quickly learned that Libyan agents in East Germany were behind the attack.

On April 15, acting on Reagan’s orders, U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps bombers struck at several sites in Tripoli and Benghazi. Reportedly, Kaddafi himself narrowly missed becoming a casualty.

There were no more acts of Libyan terrorism against Americans for the rest of Reagan’s term.

THE LIMITS OF LOVE AND FEAR: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Social commentary, Uncategorized on September 19, 2017 at 12:07 am

It’s probably the most-quoted passage of Niccolo Machiavelli’s infamous book, The Prince:

“From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved. The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved. 

“For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain. As long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours: they offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote, but when it approaches, they revolt.

“And the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined. For the friendship which is gained by purchase and not through grandeur and nobility of spirit is bought but not secured, and at a pinch is not to be expended in your service. 

“And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared. For love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose. But fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.”

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

So—which is better: To be feared or loved?

In the 1993 film, A Bronx Tale, 17-year-old Calogero (Lillo Brancato) poses that question to his idol, the local Mafia capo, Sonny (Chazz Palminteri).

“That’s a good question,” Sonny replies. “It’s nice to be both, but it’s very difficult. But if I had my choice, I would rather be feared.

“Fear lasts longer than love. Friendships that are bought with money mean nothing. You see how it is around here. I make a joke, everybody laughs. I know I’m funny, but I’m not that funny. It’s fear that keeps them loyal to me.”

Presidents face the same dilemma as Mafia capos—and resolve it in their own ways.

LOVE ME BECAUSE I NEED TO BE LOVED

Bill Clinton believed that he could win over his self-appointed Republican enemies through his sheer charm.

Part of this lay in self-confidence: He had won the 1992 and 1996 elections by convincing voters that “I feel your pain.”

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Bill Clinton

And part of it lay in his need to be loved. He once said that if he were in a room with 100 people and 99 of them liked him but one didn’t, he would spend all his time with that one person, trying to win him over.

But while he could charm voters, he could not bring himself to retaliate against his sworn Republican enemies.

On April 19, 1995, Right-wing terrorist Timothy McVeigh drove a truck–packed with 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and nitromethane–to the front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

The explosion killed 168 people, including 19 children in the day care center on the second floor, and injured 684 others.

Suddenly, Republicans were frightened. Since the end of World War II, they had vilified the very Federal Government they belonged to. They had deliberately courted the Right-wing militia groups responsible for the bombing.

So Republicans feared Clinton would now turn their decades of hate against them.

They need not have worried. On April 23, Clinton presided over a memorial service for the victims of the bombing. He gave a moving eulogy—without condemning the hate-filled Republican rhetoric that had at least indirectly led to the slaughter.

Clinton further sought to endear himself to Republicans by:

  • Adopting NAFTA—the Republican-sponsored North American Free Trade Act, which later proved so devastating to American workers;
  • Siding with Republicans against poor Americans on welfare; and
  • Championing the gutting of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall law, which barred investment banks from commercial banking activities.

The result: Republicans believed Clinton was weak–and could be rolled.

In 1998, House Republicans moved to impeach him over a sex scandal with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. But his Presidency survived when the Senate refused to convict.

LOVE ME BECAUSE I’LL HURT YOU IF YOU DON’T

Lyndon Johnson wanted desperately to be loved.

Once, he complained to Dean Acheson, the former Secretary of State under Harry S. Truman, about the ingratitude of American voters. He had passed far more legislation than his predecessor, John F. Kennedy, and yet Kennedy remained beloved, while he, Johnson, was not.

Why was that? Johnson demanded.

“You are not a very likable man,” said Acheson truthfully.

Image result for Images of Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon B. Johnson

Johnson tried to make his subordinates love him. He would humiliate a man, then give him an expensive gift—such a Cadillac. It was his way of binding the man to him.

He was on a first-name basis with J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime director of the FBI. He didn’t hesitate to request—and get—raw FBI files on his political opponents.

On at least one occasion, he told members of his Cabinet: No one would dare walk out on his administration—because if they did, two men would follow their ass to the end of the earth: Mr. J. Edgar Hoover and the head of the Internal Revenue Service.

COUNTERING INSULTS WITH BETTER INSULTS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 29, 2017 at 1:12 am

Tyrants are conspicuously vulnerable to ridicule. Yet Democrats have proven unable or unwilling to make use of this powerful weapon.

Donald Trump—as political candidate and President—has repeatedly assaulted the press as “fake news.”  He has similarly attacked the judiciary and Intelligence agencies such as the CIA and FBI. But no Democrat has dared to label him a “fake President.”

Similarly, he has branded Hillary Clinton “Crooked Hillary.” But Democrats—despite Trump’s often-publicized admiration for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin—have never called him “Red Donald.”  Nor charged him with using dictatorial methods via the damning barb: “TrumPutin.”

Had Democrats met his insults with effective ones of their own during the campaign, the results might well have been different.

Democrats and liberals (the two are not always the same) have similarly failed to produce funny anti-Trump jokes. Jokes are an effective weapon because they highlight traits that people are already familiar with—such as Trump’s dictatorial nature:

  • One day, while walking down a corridor, newly-elected President Trump passes Hillary Clinton. “It’s so nice to see you,” says Trump. “I thought I had you shot.”
  • What’s the difference between Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler?  Nothing—but Trump doesn’t know it.

Or his egomania:

  • Donald Trump commissions a sculptor to draw up blueprints for a statue of Abraham Lincoln. Version #1 shows a towering Lincoln reading the Gettysburg address. Trump: “That’s very good, but there’s something missing.” Version #2: Trump standing next to Lincoln, who’s reading the Gettysburg address. Trump: “That’s better, but something’s still missing. Try to fix it.” Version #3: Trump, sitting in the Oval Office, reading the Gettysburg Address. Trump: “Yes, that’s it.  You finally got it right.”

Nor have Democrats assailed the ignorant semi-literates who comprise most of Trump’s voters: 

  • Why do Donald Trump’s supporters always travel in threes? One who can read, one who can write, and one to keep his eye on the two intellectuals.   

Incredibly for this YouTube-obsessed age, Democrats have never assailed Trump with barrages of satirical musical videos.

Trump’s notorious “bromance” with Vladimir Putin could be satirized by converting the Beatles’ hit, “With a Little Help From My Friends” into “With a Little Help From My Vlad”:

What do I do when the bank calls me in?
(Does it worry you to be in debt?)
How do I feel when I need rubles fast?
(Do you worry Vlad might say “Nyet”?)

No, I get by with a little help from my Vlad.
Mm, I can lie with a little help from my Vlad.
Mm, you’re gonna fry with a little help from my Vlad.

In the hands of a creative writer, the Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” could become “Can’t Buy Me Class”:

I’ll sell you a load of crap my friend
If it makes you feel all right.
I’ll don a Klansman’s robes and hat
‘Cause it makes me Super White.

‘Cause I don’t care too much for humble.
Money can’t buy me class.

Can’t buy me class
Everybody tells me so.
Can’t buy me class—no, no, no, no.

Many Americans have wondered how so many millions of their fellow citizens could have voted for Trump.

“Springtime for Hitler,” the signature tune of the hit play and movie, The Producers, could become “Springtime for Trumpland”—and help mightily in clearing up that mystery:

America was having trouble
What a sad, sad story.
Needed a new leader
To restore its former glory.

Where oh where was he?
Who could that man be?
We looked around and then we found
The man for you and me.

And now it’s… 

Springtime for Trump goons and bigotry—
Winter for Reason and Light.
Springtime for Trumpland and infamy—
Come on, Trumpsters, let’s go pick a fight. 

Parody song-writers could easily attack the obvious racism of Trump and those who elected him. This would be especially easy after his praise for white supremacist demonstrators in Charlottesville, Virginia:

LITTLE NAZIS
(To be sung to the tune, “Little Boxes)

Little Nazis in the White House
Little Nazis made of Fascist hate.
Little Nazis in the White House
Little Nazis all the same.
There’s a big one and a small one
And a fat one and an Orange One–
And they’re all made out of Fascist hate
And they all look just the same.

And the voters in the “heartland”
All went off to the polling booth
Where they pulled hard on the levers
And the Nazis got a win.
And there’s bigots and oppressors
And screaming misogynists–
And they’re all made out of Fascist hate
And they all sound just the same.

And some go off to lynchings
Where they hang their black neighbors high.
And they all have stupid children
And the children flunk at school.
And the children go to Nazi sites
And learn their perversity.
Then they turn out like their parents
And they’re all scum just the same. 

For any of this to happen, Democrats would need to acquire two qualities they have all-too-often lacked: Creativity and courage.

Specifically:

  • The creativity to produce audience-captivating humor; and
  • The courage to ruthlessly attack Trump as he attacks others.

COUNTERING INSULTS WITH BETTER INSULTS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 28, 2017 at 12:14 am

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks appear every Friday on the PBS Newshour to review the week’s major political events.

On May 27, 2016, Shields—a liberal, and Brooks, a conservative—exchanged opinions on Donald Trump’s use of insults against his political opponents.

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David Brooks and Mark Shields

MARK SHIELDS: “Donald Trump gratuitously slandered Ted Cruz’s wife. He libeled Ted Cruz’s father for being potentially part of Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassination of the president of the United States, suggesting that he was somehow a fellow traveler in that.

“This is a libel. You don’t get over it….

“I think there is a sophomore quality that is entertaining with Mr. Trump, but I am worried. I’m very concerned of having him in charge of his nuclear weapons because his visceral response to attack people on their appearance—short, tall, fat, ugly—my goodness that happened in junior high.”

Donald Trump

DAVID BROOKS: “Trump, for all his moral flaws, is a marketing genius. And you look at what he does. He just picks a word and he attaches it to a person. Little Marco [Rubio], Lyin’ Ted [Cruz], Crooked Hillary [Clinton].

“And that’s a word.  And that’s how marketing works. It’s a simple, blunt message, but it gets under.

“It sticks, and it diminishes. And so it has been super effective for him, because he knows how to do that. And she [Hillary Clinton] just comes with, ‘Oh, he’s divisive.’

“These are words that are not exciting people. And her campaign style has gotten, if anything…a little more stagnant and more flat.”

Hillary Clinton wasn’t the only Presidential candidate who proved unable to cope with Trump’s gift for insult. His targets—and insults—included:

  • Former Texas Governor Rick Perry: “Wears glasses to seem smart.”
  • Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush: “Low Energy Jeb.”
  • Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders: “Crazy Bernie.”
  • Ohio Governor John Kasich: “Mathematically dead and totally desperate.”

Only one of Trump’s opponents tried to match him in insults—Florida’s United States Senator Marco Rubio.

At the 11th GOP presidential debate in Detroit, Rubio “countered” Trump’s insult of “Little Marco” by calling him “Big Donald.”

Since Americans believe that “bigger is better,” this was a poor choice of ridicule.

So why hasn’t anyone come up with a way to counter Trump’s repeated insults?

According to David Brooks: Democrats face two choices in combating Trump:

“Either you do what [Massachusetts United States Senator] Elizabeth Warren has done, like full-bore negativity, that kind of [get] under the skin, or try to ridicule him and use humor. Humor is not Hillary Clinton’s strongest point.”

A May 12, 2016 story on CNN—“Elizabeth Warren Gives Trump a Dose of His Own Medicine on Twitter”—notes:  “Whenever Trump criticizes her, Warren fires right back at him, sometimes twice as hard.”

Warren’s tweets, according to the article, appeared to have two goals:

  1. Challenge Trump on social media, which he had so far dominated; and
  2. Use attention-catching words like “bully” and “loser.”

Among her tweets:

  • “But here’s the thing. You can beat a bully—not by tucking tail and running, but by holding your ground.”
  • “You care so much about struggling American workers, @realDonaldTrump, that you want to abolish the federal minimum wage?”
  • @realDonaldTrump: Your policies are dangerous. Your words are reckless. Your record is embarrassing. And your free ride is over.”

Nor did Warren restrict herself to battling Trump on Twitter.

Elizabeth Warren--Official 113th Congressional Portrait--.jpg

Elizabeth Warren

On May 24, 2016, Warren unleashed perhaps her most devastating attack on Trump at an event hosted by the Center for Popular Democracy:

“Just yesterday, it came out that Donald Trump had said back in 2007 that he was ‘excited’ for the real estate market to crash because, quote, ‘I’ve always made more money in bad markets than in good markets.’

“That’s right. The rest of us were horrified by the 2008 financial crisis, by what happened to the millions of families…that were forced out of their homes.

“But Donald Trump was drooling over the idea of a housing meltdown—because it meant he could buy up a bunch more property on the cheap….

“What kind of a man does that? I’ll tell you exactly what kind—a man who cares about no one but himself. A small, insecure moneygrubber who doesn’t care who gets hurt, so long as he makes some money off it….” 

On the May 27, 2016 edition of the PBS Newshour, syndicated columnist Mark Shields noted the ability of Elizabeth Warren to rattle Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump:

“Elizabeth Warren gets under Donald Trunp’s skin. And I think she’s been the most effective adversary. I think she’s done more to unite the Democratic party than either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

“I mean, she obviously–he can’t stay away from her. He is tweeting about her.”

As a whole, Democrats have shown themselves indifferent to or ignorant of the power of effective language.

Many of them—such as former President Barack Obama—take the view: “I’m not going to get into the gutter like my opponents.”

Thus, they take the “high ground”—while their sworn Republican enemies undermine them via “smear and fear” tactics.

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